Information for new boaters

Imagine being able to take your house and park it in some of the most inspiring and beautiful parts of England and Wales - this is what life on a boat holiday is like.

A family taking a boat holiday on the Grand Union Canal A boat holiday on the Grand Union Canal

On a boat you never get bored of looking out the window and seeing the same thing, because you can change the view from your window every day.

With over 2,000 miles of our canals and rivers for you to cruise, the sheer choice of holiday routes can seem daunting at first, but it's really just a case of deciding what you want to get out of your holiday.

How do I choose where to go?

First choose a location, either a place that you've previously fallen in love with or an area that you've always wanted to explore. Then, it's pretty much plain-sailing from there. Deciding what you want to do all day will also help to narrow down your options.

So if you love the bustling activity and sights of the city, go for routes that pass through major cities like Birmingham or Manchester. But if you prefer peaceful surroundings, there's a huge choice of rural waterways around the country. Create a journey that's entirely catered towards the needs of you or your friends and family.

How far can we travel?

During the summer months you can expect to cruise on your canal boat for anywhere between four and seven hours a day.

Travelling at around 3-4mph for four hours a day will mean you cover around 80 to 100 miles in a week. This will still provide plenty of time for lazy lunches and energetic exploring. You should also make sure you allow extra time in your schedule to go through locks, as it will take you around 15 minutes extra to get through each one. An energetic party could manage it in less though.

How do we choose a route?

Booking a boating holiday is much the same as booking a holiday abroad – just choose the location you would like to travel to and work from there.

Normally your boat holiday operator will discuss the routes available within the area you have booked. Most companies will have cruising maps that you can buy. 

Your route depends on your personal choice. Larger crews of two families may fancy covering more miles on their boat, with an energetic route or a cruising ring. However, groups of friends might enjoy a city cruise - with lots of things to see and do these make for a very undemanding route.

Personal skill and confidence behind the tiller of your boat may also play a large part when it comes to choosing your route. If you're new to boating you may want to avoid routes with lots of locks, such as the hilly approaches to Birmingham. However, if you have energetic children then lots of locks can keep them entertained and actually work to your advantage!

How much does a boating holiday cost?

The price of a canal holiday can vary widely and depends on a number of factors, such as how many people are going, the length of the break you are taking, and the time of year you are going. 

Couples can expect to pay around:

  • £300 – £400 for a short break
  • £500 – £800 for a week-long break

A family of four can expect a cost of around:

  • £500 – £700 for a short break
  • £700 – £1,000 for a week-long cruise

Prices are usually higher during the peak times of December and the summer months of May, June, July, August and September.

When you split the cost of a canal holiday between friends it's a very affordable option.

Last date edited: 4 June 2019